The other day, one of my best friends, whom I haven’t seen for almost a year now, called in to Bendigo from South Australia. He didn’t tell me beforehand that he’s coming because he wanted to pay me a surprise visit. It would have been a lovely surprise for me, if we did catch up but we didn’t. Believing that I was so busy that day, he didn’t bother to come to the parish office. He went on to Melbourne instead. He left me a message though stating his plan of surprising me with his visit only to realize (as he said) that he has forgotten how busy a parish priest is. Anyway, I rang him back and told him of my disappointment to have missed his visit. I said to him: ‘Next time, when you plan to surprise me, give me a ring.’ Sounds funny but I was a bit serious about it. What I wanted to tell him was that if he was already in the vicinity, and was close by, he could have rung me and acknowledges his presence around. I would have welcomed him and accommodated him no matter how busy I am- he is my best friend after all. It was a bit disappointing.
Friends, I’m sharing this with you because the theme of ‘Coming’ is one reason why we celebrate this season of Advent in our Liturgical Calendar– the coming of Christ (Christmas), his coming into our lives and in our hearts and his coming at the end of time. The difference between the coming of Christ and the coming of my friend is that though Christ’s coming is at ‘the hour we do not expect’ he didn’t mean to ‘surprise’ us. Otherwise, many of us would have been disappointed, or even missed his coming. Rather, he gives us hints of his coming. He offers us ways and opportunities to prepare for his coming. He urges us as we have heard in our gospel today to ‘stand ready for the coming of the Son of Man.’ This means that he wouldn’t want to disappoint us, or he wants us not to be disappointed in the end. This is one Good News for us in this season of Advent- for us to realize that God doesn’t want us to be disappointed in the end. He gives us time to prepare for his coming, so that we will not miss him and also because he loves to take us with him to his kingdom. So while we still have time, we’ve got to do some preparations ourselves for his coming.
So how can we prepare for God’s coming?
We can think of many ways. I can offer you three ways. It works for me, and I hope and pray it works for you too.
First, is to keep the line of communication with God open. This means keeping in touch with him always through many ways and forms, such as attending mass daily for the whole of Advent as a personal resolution, taking meditations and personal prayers as part of our day, reading and praying with the gospels, listening to the voice of God speaking to us through the ordinary human events, and seeing God through the events that are happening around us and in the world. We have to remember God likes a personal communication, that’s why we celebrate Christmas, because this is a decisive moment in our salvation history when God shows us that He really is serious to keep in touch with us human beings in a more real and more personal way.
Second, is to make ourselves available for him all the time. This requires of us to accept his ‘friend request.’ He is knocking at the door of our hearts all the time. Have we listened to his voice inviting us to be part of his big circle of friends? God loves to call us his friends, proof to this; he lay down his life for his friends. I assure you, friendship with God brings wonders not only to our own lives, but also in our relationship with other people and even in the things we do that help us live a truly human life. If God is our personal friend, we worry less about our own lives and we work more for God and for his people. If God is our personal friend, we don’t care what people say or think of us. All we care is that our friendship with God would never be broken by betrayal and infidelity. The beauty about being a friend of God personally is that we can be completely vulnerable before him, we become true to ourselves, and we can be completely open to him. In fact, we can even get mad at him I tell you. Another wonderful thing about God’s personal friend is that we come to appreciate our real selves, faults and all, because we know that there is a God who cares and loves us no matter what it takes. Friendship with God who is loving, holy and perfect enables us to share his life personally and more intimately, and helps us to become more loving, holy and perfect as he is.
So how we might realize God’s friend request to us? Let us resolve to talk to him constantly in prayers. Let us listen to him in the Scriptures. Let us enjoy his self-communication in the Eucharist. Let us also listen to him speaking to us through ordinary situations and events around us. Let us make him a part of our life day in and day out. Let us include him in our daily works and in our decisions. In other words, whatever we do, wherever we are, let us be aware that God is present in there. In this way we are making ourselves available to him all the time.
Third is to be the concrete representative of Christ in the world today. This is a big challenge for us because as human as we are, we tend to be contented only with what is typically human as we have heard in the gospel today (Mt 24:37-44): eating, drinking, taking wives, taking husbands, doing the ordinary human ways, in other words focusing more on the material things than the spiritual, focusing more on the superficial than on the real meaning of our human existence. St Paul in our Second reading (Rom 13:11-14) would tell us to go beyond our human cravings and earthly longings by giving “up all the things we prefer to do under cover of the dark (our sins); let us arm ourselves and appear in the light (reconcile with God through the sacrament of penance); let us live decently as people do in the daytime” (be honest, be transparent, and be faithful to what God has called us to be and to do.
So as we begin this season of Advent, while preparing for Christmas and looking forward to Christ’s second coming, let this question be a point for our reflection this first week: “What spiritual preparation are we taking to show Christ we are ready to welcome him when he comes?”
I hope and pray, we will not disappoint him and that we will not end up disappointed.